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Two for one: Impressive Cavaliers can’t overcome James Harden, fall to Rockets 116-110

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It was the eighth straight loss for the Cleveland Cavaliers, but they’ll take something positive from this one

NBA: Houston Rockets at Cleveland Cavaliers David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The Cavs were competitive for a solid first half, but it appeared that things were getting away from them as the third quarter went on. They fell behind by double digits, and it wasn’t clear they had the fight in them to withstand a bout of solid play from the Houston Rockets; after all, we hadn’t seen a whole lot of competitiveness from the Cavs of late.

Well, all they did was score 24 straight points and take a real lead in the fourth quarter. That run involved 12-16 shooting, and zero turnovers. Most importantly, it involved a young player in Kevin Porter Jr. keying the run. He hit threes, scored in transition, and forced turnovers. He’s been “flashing” lately, but this was closer to a full performance. He plays with an edge and a competitiveness, but he’s also been patient as he earns opportunities. The Cavs have been looking for one of their young guys to break out a little bit, and Porter did that tonight.

As fun and impressive as the run was, it wasn’t enough. James Harden was ultimately just too good. 55 points on 34 shots with eight assists added on top good. He even had a block on Kevin Love in a crucial fourth quarter possession.

The Houston Rockets, 116. Your Cleveland Cavaliers, 110.

This was not a great night for the starters

Noticeable absent for the Cavs run? Every single starter. John Beilein went with hockey lineups and a lineup of Matthew Dellavedova, Jordan Clarkson, Kevin Porter Jr., Larry Nance Jr. and John Henson got the Cavs back in the game. Kevin Love was engaged in this game, though, and finished with 14 shots. I don’t know that I could say he was good - I’m sure he wouldn’t - but it was a step up. Too many Cavs possessions end up with Love or Tristan Thompson being asked to create from the post. We can shout it from the rooftops, but that’s just not what the NBA is anymore.

Darius Garland, likewise, had some positive moments and made three of his six three point attempts. Still, you’d like to see him create a bit more for others.

The Cavs collapsed in the last couple minutes, but that’s okay

The Rockets simply have a lot more recent experience playing high-leverage minutes. Clarkson, Collin Sexton, and Porter all can play decent offensive basketball, but they’re also young and/or prone to questionable decision making. And hey, that’s pretty much what happened. It was something they’ll be able to go back and look at and they’ll come back hungry to finish next time. As Beilein said postgame, this one will hurt. That’s a good thing.

It was nice to have a young player be the catalyst in the comeback

The Cavs had some competent moments early on in the year and some nice wins, but it was largely on the back of Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson. If Kevin Porter Jr. is a real NBA player, that’s a big step for morale on a rebuilding team. Sexton and Garland have plenty of time, and no one is saying Porter has even arrived, but this was simply refreshing. Hopefully he doesn’t rest on this success, he’ll need to continue to get better.